For the second time in five days City were back at SJP, facing Cheltenham Town for the second time this season after winning 7-0 at the Completely-Suzuki Stadium. This time Cheltenham were the winning side, travelling home 1-0 winners.
City went into this game as the highest scoring team in the top four divisions of English football, with seven of their 16 goals this season scored away at Cheltenham only a few weeks ago in the Carabao cup, but were unable to add to that tally after a hard fought game today at St James Park.
On a cloudy day down in Devon, The Grecians welcomed the struggling Robins to SJP, but with all their efforts exerted, Cheltenham travelled home with all three points after a goal from Dan N’Lundulu.
After the fantastic 3-1 victory over Wycombe Wanderers in midweek, Matt Taylor made only the three changes with Sam Nombe coming in to replace Jevani Brown who is away on international duty, Sam Stubbs replaced Pierce Sweeney to make his first league start of the campaign and Jake Caprice a straight swap for Josh Key at right wing back as well for his start in the league. Sweeney missed out following the birth of his baby this morning.
Only four minutes into the game and the City fans were almost up on their feet celebrating an opener, but thanks to a point blank save from the Cheltenham keeper Luke Southwood after a combination of Matt Jay and Nombe, the game was kept goalless. Within the commotion, there was also a for an alleged push on captain Jay but the shouts waved away by the referee.
A long range sighter from Tim Dieng saw the ball sail easily into the hands of Southwood in the Cheltenham goal. Not even ten minutes played and City controlling and dominating the numbers in possession and shots on goal.
With 25 minutes gone, City were very much the team in charge but Cheltenham were starting to find some space in behind Stubbs, Hartridge and Diabate, but the commanding figure of Jamal Blackman was steadying the ship at the back.
And only moments later the midfield scoring machine that is Harry Kite was through on goal, catching the ball beautifully on the volley, but the Cheltenham goalkeeper matched his quality, tipping the ball over the bar. The resulting corner from The Grecians came to nothing with the mis-hit corner cleared away by the away defence.
Seconds later and some haphazard defending led to the ball falling to the feet of Sparkes on the edge of the area, his curling effort was deflected behind for another City corner. From the resulting set-piece, a floating ball found Stubbs at the back post but his cushioned header again finding the hands of Southwood.
With his name in shining lights, Sparkes once again lined up a shot from distance, but it was not once of his greatest efforts with the ball sailing very wide of the goal, with Cheltenham clearing the ball as far up the field as possible, but again Matt Taylor's boys came back with another counter attack earning themselves another corner.
Corner, after corner, after corner, most of the first half was heavily spent in the Cheltenham defensive third, but they were keeping the back door firmly locked shut. As much as the City attack were trying to bust it open. And that was that for the first half, 45 minutes of constant pressure from City but not too much to take away from it.
The second half saw Cheltenham counter attack from the off put the pressure on the City backline, but a crunching sliding challenge from Stubbs on his first league start of the season put that to bed very quickly.
The Big Bank really came alive at the start of the second half, with the home fans getting louder and louder as the seconds went by. The noise was clearly working as the ball was rarely away from the Cheltenham defensive third, much the same as the first half.
But then the deadlock was broken, a counter attack from Cheltenham in the 56th led to N’Lundulu opening the scoring for the home side, very much against the run of play as he found space in the area, shrugged off his marker and smashed past Blackman.
Come the 65th minute, Taylor made another change with Southampton loanee Kegs Chauke coming on to replace Stubbs, with Kite moving to the right hand side of the back three. Five minutes later and the ball was almost in the back of the Cheltenham net, an Archie Collins strike from the edge of the area was just tipped wide of the post by the Cheltenham keeper.
A big moment came in the 87th minute with Taylor making his fourth change of the game, with academy starlet Sonny Cox coming on to make his league debut in place of the departing Kite. A fantastic ball in the final moments of added time from Nombe found Coley at the back post, but he took his eyes off of the ball in the final moment and the ball ended up the wrong side of the post.
An absolute screamer of an effort from Sparkes, almost sent the Big Bank into delirium but another save from the Cheltenham keeper sent the ball over the bar for another City corner.
The next game we see a return to Carabao Cup action with The Grecians making the long travel east to play Gillingham at Priestfield Stadium.
Starting XI: Blackman, Caprice (Key), Stubbs (Chauke), Diabate, Hartridge, Sparkes, Kite (Cox), Collins, Dieng (Coley), Jay (C), Nombe
Subs Not Used: S.Brown, Grounds
Cheltenham Town: Southwood, Taylor, Freestone, Williams, Long (C), Jackson (Raglan), Chapman, Perry (Adshead), Sercombe, Nlundulu (Norton), May
Subs Not Used: Macdonald, Barkers, Brown, Ferry
Referee: Robert Lewis
Attendance: 5927 (266 Away)